Illegal toll behind all
Control over illegal toll collection has led the two feuding groups of road transport workers to be at loggerheads at the capital's Sayedabad Bus Terminal for the last few days, transport workers said.
Their conflict resulted in the shutdown of the terminal from six in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon yesterday, causing immense suffering to passengers.
Leaders of different transport workers union said the groups under the banner of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Union and Dhaka Zila Sarak Paribahan Sramik Union were trying to establish their supremacy at the terminal.
Talking to The Daily Star, over two dozen workers of different buses at the terminal said collection of toll is the apple of discord.
Dhaka Zila Sarak Paribahan Sramik Union, an offshoot of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Union, allegedly has the blessing of Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan. It occupied the office of the Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Union early Monday.
Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Union had been controlling the terminal for the last 15 years.
Even though no exact figure of the money collected each day is available, statements from workers shed some light on how the complex “system” works and how the entire road transport sector is dictated.
Tk 60 is collected from each bus every day. Of which, Tk 10 goes to the Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation, considered the umbrella organisation of all trade unionism in the road transport sector.
The rest Tk 50 goes to the union fund, terminal management committee and others.
Both groups claim stakes in the Tk 50 that is collected from each bus, said some leaders of workers union seeking anonymity, adding that around 2,000 buses operate from Sayedabad to 35 districts daily.
According to Abul Kalam, president of bus owners association of the terminal, the workers union collects about Tk 1 lakh a day at the terminal.
Karam Ali of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Union denied that they collect illegal toll. He, however, said they collect Tk 10 from each bus and hand it over to Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation.
Talking to The Daily Star, leader of a transport workers organisation Mohammad Ali Reza said every day Tk 10 is collected from each bus plying between the capital and other districts.
The Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation gets Tk 54 crore a year from all the buses.
Talking about the particular case of Sayedabad terminal, Reza said around Tk 2.16 crore are collected annually from the terminal and it too goes to the fund of the Federation.
Terming the money collection illegal, he claimed that the Federation takes the money year after year but it does not spend any for the welfare of workers.
But over the last three months, an internal feud developed inside Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Union and it has severed its ties with Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation, he said.
That is why the feud has reached this new height.
He claimed that the Dhaka Zila Sarak Paribahan Sramik Union, with the blessing of the shipping minister, took over the office of the Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Union early Monday.
Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, executive president of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation, termed the ongoing feud “an internal issue” of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Union.
He refuted the allegation that Dhaka Zila Sarak Paribahan Union enjoyed his blessing. He also refuted the claim that his federation receives Tk 54 crore a year from various transport workers' unions.
“It is just a few lakhs of Taka,” he said.
And as to what workers' welfare they spend the money for, Shajahan said the money is spent for legal battles, compensation for workers' death and for the operations cost of the federation.